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The journal of Sir Walter Scott, from the original manuscript at Abbotsford online

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counts of the American Indians. They are, according to his lordship,
decaying fast in numbers and principle. Lork Selkirk's property
now makes large returns, from the stock of the North West Com-
pany and Hudson's Bay Companies having united. I learned from
Lord Dalhousie that he had been keeping a diary since the year
1800. Should his narrative ever see the light, what a contrast will it
form to the flourishing vapouring accounts of most of the French
merchants ! Mr. and Mrs. Skene with their daughter Kitty, who has
been indisposed, came to dinner, and the party was a well-assorted


April 1. A pretty first of April truly ; the hills white with snow,
I myself as bilious as a dog. My noble guests left about noon. I
wrote letters, as if I had not bile enough in my bosom already, and
did not go out to face the snow wreaths till half-past two, when I am
resolved to make a brush for exercise. There will be fine howling
among the dogs, for I am about to shut my desk. Found Mrs.
Skene disposed to walk, so I had the advantage of her company. The
snow lay three inches thick on the ground ; but we had the better ap-
petite for dinner, after which we talked and read without my lifting
a pen.

April 2. Begins with same brilliant prospect of snow and sun-
shine dazzling to the eyes and chilling to the fingers, a beastly disa-
greeable coldness in the air. I stuck by the pen till one, then took
a drive with the ladies as far as Chiefswood and walked home.
Young William Forbes 1 came, and along with him a Southron, Mr.

April 3. Still the same party. I fagged at writing letters to Lock-
hart, to Charles, and to John Gibson, to Mr. Cadell, Croker, Lord Had-
dington, and others. Lockhart has had an overture through Croker
requesting him to communicate with some newspaper on the part of
the Government, which he has wisely declined. Nothing but a thor-
ough-going blackguard ought to attempt the daily press, unless it is
some quiet country diurnal. Lockhart has also a wicked wit which
would make an office of this kind more dangerous to him than to
downright dulness. I am heartily glad he has refused it.*

1 Son of Lord Medwyn. Mr. Forbes had late- do anything for it? I said I was as well in-
ly returned from Italy, where he had had as clined to serve the Duke as he could be, but it
travelling companion Mr. Cleasby, and it was must be in other fashion. He then said he
owing to Mr. Forbes's recommendation that agreed with me but there was a second ques-
Mr. Cleasby came to Kdinburgh to pursue his tion: Could I find them an editor, and under-
studies. Mr. Forbes possessed a fine tenor take to communicate between them and him
voice, and his favourite songs at that time were in short, save the Treasury the inconvenience
the Neapolitan and Calabrian canzonetti, to of maintaining an avowed intercourse with the
which Sir Walter alludes under April 4. Newspaper press? He said he himself had for

8 Mr. Lockhart's own account of the over- some years done this then others. I said I

ture is sufficiently amusing and characteristic would endeavour to think of a man for their

of the men and the times: turn and would call on him soon again.

"I had not time to write more than a line "I have considered the matter at leisure,

the other day under Croker's cover, having re- and resolve to have nothing to do with it.

ceived it just at post time. He sent for me; I They CAN only want me as a writer. Any un-

found him in his nightcap at the Admiralty, derstrapper M.P. would do well enough forcar-

colded badly, but in audacious spirits. His rying hints to a newspaper office, and I will not,

business was this. The Duke of \V[ellingto]n even to secure the Duke, mix myself up with

finds himself without one newspaper he can the newspapers. That work it is which Im?;

depend on. He wishes to buy up some even- damned Croker, and I can't afford to sacrifice

ing print, such as the dull Star; and could 1 the advantage which 1 feel I have gained in

APRIL, 1829.] JOURNAL 447

Sir James Mackintosh and Lord Haddington have spoken very
handsomely of my accession to the Catholic Petition, and I think it
has done some good ; yet I am not confident that the measure will
disarm the Catholic spleen. 1 And I was not entirely easy at finding
myself allied to the Whigs, even in thic instance, where I agree with
them. This is witless prejudice, however.

My walk to-day was up the Rhymer's Glen with Skene. Colonel
Ferguson dined with us.

April 4. Mr. Cleasby left this morning. He has travelled much,
and is a young man of copious conversation and ready language, aim-
ing I suppose at Parliament. 2 William Forbes is singing like an an-
gel in the next room, but he sings only Italian music, which says
naught to me. I have a letter from one David Patterson, who was
Dr. Knox's jackal for buying murdered bodies, suggesting that I
should write on the subject of Burke and Hare, and offering me his
invaluable collection of anecdotes ! " Curse him imperance and him
dam insurance," 3 as Mungo says in the farce. * Did ever one hear the
like ? The scoundrel has been the companion and patron of such
atrocious murderers and kidnappers, and he has the impudence to
write to any decent man !

Corrected proof-sheets and dedication of the Magnum and sent
them off.

April 5. Read prayers to what remains of our party : being Anne,
my niece Anne, the four Skenes, and William Forbes. We then
walked, and I returned time enough to work a little at the criticism.
Thus it drew towards dinner in conclusion, after which we smoked,
told stories, and drank tea.

April 6. Worked at the review for three or four hours ; yet hang
it, I can't get on. I wonder if I am turning clumsy in other matters ;
certainly I cannot write against time as I used to do. My thoughts
will not be duly regulated ; my pen declares for itself, will neither
write nor spell, and goes under independent colours. I went out with
the child Kitty Skene on her pony. I don't much love children, I
suppose from want of habit, but this is a fine merry little girl.

William Forbes sang in the evening with a feeling and taste in-
describably fine, but as he had no Scottish or English songs, my ears
were not much gratified. I have no sense beyond Mungo : " What
signify me hear if me no understand !"

William Forbes leaves us. As to the old story, scribble till two,

these later years by abstaining altogether from 2 Richard Cleasby, afterwards the well-known

partisan scribbling, or to subject the Quarterly scholar who spent many years in gathering ma-

to risk of damage. The truth is, I don't ad- terials for an Icelandic Dictionary. Mr. Cleas-

mire, after all that has come and gone, being by died in 1847, but the work he had planned

applied to through the medium of friend Cro- was not published until 1874, when it appeared

key. I hope you will approve of my resolu- under the editorship of Mr. Vigfusson,* assist-

tion. " ed by Sir George Dasent.

1 Peel, in writing to Scott, says, "The men- 3 Bickerstaifs Padlock, Act i. Sc. 6.

tion of your name [in Parliament] as attached .

to the Edinburgh petition was received with ^^^^^^S^^JS'^.

loud Cheers. " pleted by G. Vigfusson. 4to, Oxford, 1874.


then walk for exercise till four. Deil hae it else, for company eats
up the afternoon, so nothing can be done that is not achieved in the

April 7. We had a gay scene this morning the fox hounds and
merry hunters in my little base court, which rung with trampling
steeds, and rejoiced in scarlet jackets and ringing horns. I have seen
the day worlds would not have bribed me to stay behind them ; but
that is over, and I walked a sober pace up to the Abbot's Knowe
from which I saw them draw my woods, but without finding a fox.
I watched them with that mixture of interest, affection, and compas-
sion which old men feel at looking on the amusements of the young.
I was so far interested in the chase itself as to be sorry they did not
find. I had so far the advantage of the visit, that it gave me an ob-
ject for the morning exercise, which I would otherwise only have
been prompted to by health and habit. It is pleasant to have one's
walk, as heralds say, with a difference. By the way, the foxhunters
hunted the cover far too fast. When they found a path they ran
through it pell-mell without beating at all. They had hardly left the
hare-hole cover, when a fox, which they had over-run, stole away.
This is the consequence of breeding dogs too speedy.

April 8. We have the news of the Catholic question being car-
ried in the House of Lords, by a majority of 105 upon the second
reading. This is decisive, and the balsam of Fierabras must be swallow-
ed. 1 It remains to see how it will work. >ince it was indubitably
necessary, I am glad the decision on the case has been complete. On
these last three days I have finished my review of Tytler for Lock-
hart and sent it off by this post. I may have offended Peter by cen-
suring him for a sort of petulance towards his predecessor Lord
Hailes. This day visited by Mr. Carr, who is a sensible, clever young
man, and by his two sisters* beautiful singer the youngest and
to my taste, and English music.

April 9. Laboured correcting proofs and revising ; the day in-
finitely bad. Worked till three o'clock ; then tried a late walk, and
a wet one.

I hear bad news of James Ballantyne. Hypochondriac I am
afraid, and religiously distressed in mind.

I got a book from the Duke de Levis, the same gentleman with
whom I had an awkward meeting at Abbotsford, owing to his having
forgot his credentials, which left me at an unpleasant doubt as to his
character and identity. 3 His book is inscribed to me with hyper-

i Don Quixote, Pt. I. Bk. n. Cap. 2. ed going into the Ark, carrying under his arm

, T _ .... . . T , . , a small trunk, on which was written "1'npiers

Friends of Joanna BaUhe'sand John Rich- ^ la maison ^ LMt . the olhor a portra ' it ,

ardson s. tno founder of the house bowing reverently to

This must have been an unusual experi- the Virgin, who is made to say, " Couvrez-vous,

cnce for the head of a family that considered man cousin. " SeeWalpole'sLfer. The book

itself to be the oldest in Christendom. Their referred to by Sir Walter is The Carbonaro: a

chateau contained, it was said, two pictures: Piedmontese Tale, by the Duke de Lovis. 2

one of the Deluge, in which Noah is represent- vols. London, 1829.

1829.] JOURNAL 449

bolical praises. Now I don't like to have, like the Persian poets who
have the luck to please the Sun of the Universe, my mouth crammed
with sugar-candy, which politeness will not permit me to spit out,
and my stomach is indisposed to swallow. The book is better than
would be expected from the exaggerated nonsense of the dedication.

April 10. Left Abbotsford at seven to attend the Circuit. Nota
bene half-past six is the better hour ; waters are extremely flooded.
Lord Meadowbank at the Circuit. Nothing tried but a few trump-
ery assaults. Meadowbank announces he will breakfast with me to-
morrow, so I shall return to-night. Promised to my cousin Charles
Scott to interest myself about his getting the farm of Milsington
upon Borthwick Water and mentioned him to Colonel Riddell as a
proposed offerer. The tender was well received. I saw James the
piper and my cousin Anne ; sent to James Veitch the spyglass of
Professor Ferguson to be repaired. Dined with the Judge and re-
turned in the evening.

April 11. Meadowbank breakfasted with us, and then went on
to Edinburgh, pressed by bad news, of his family. His wife (daughter
of my early patron, President Blair) is very ill ; indeed I fear fatally
so. I am sorry to think it is so. When the King was here she was
the finest woman I saw at Holyrood. My proofs kept me working
till two ; then I had a fatiguing and watery walk. After dinner we
smoked, and I talked with Mr. Carr over criminal jurisprudence, the
choicest of conversation to an old lawyer; and the delightful music
of Miss Isabella Carr closed the day. Still, I don't get to my task ;
but I will, to-morrow or next day.

April 12. Read prayers, put my books in order and made some
progress in putting papers in order which have been multiplying on
my table. I have a letter from that impudent lad Reynolds about
my contribution to the Keepsake. Sent to him the House of Aspen,
as I had previously determined. This will give them a lumping pen-
nyworth in point of extent, but that's the side I would have the bar-
gain "rest upon. It shall be a warning after this to keep out of such
a scrape.

April 13. In the morning before breakfast I corrected the
proof of the critique on the life of Lord Pitsligo in Blackwood's
Magazine. 1 After breakfast Skene and his lady and family, and Mr.
Carr and his sisters, took their departure. Time was dawdled away
till nearly twelve o'clock and then I could not work much. I fin-
ished, however, a painful letter to J. Ballantyne, which I hope will
have effect upon the nervous disorder he complains of. He must
" awake, arise, or be for ever fallen." I walked happily and pleas-
antly from two o'clock till four. And now I must look to Anne of
Geierstein. Hang it ! it is not so bad after all, though I fear it will
not be popular. In fact, I am almost expended ; but. while I exhort

i No. 152 May, 1829.



others to exertion I will not fail to exert myself. I have a letter from
R. P. Gfillies] proposing to subscribe to assist him from 25 to 50.
It will do no good, but yet I cannot help giving him something.

"A daimen-icker in a thrave 's a sma' request:
I'll get a blessing wi' the lave, and never miss 't." 1

I will try a review for the Foreign and he shall have the proceeds.

April 14. I sent off proofs of the review of Tytler for John
Lockhart. Then set a stout heart to a stay brae, and took up Anne of
Geierstein. I had five sheets standing by me, which I read with care,
and satisfied myself that worse had succeeded, but it was while the
fashion of the thing was new. I retrenched a good deal about the
Troubadours, which was really hors de place. As to King Rene, I
retained him as a historical character. In short, I will let the sheets
go nearly as they are, for though J. B. be an excellent judge of this
species of composition, he is not infallible, and has been in circum-
stances which may cross his mind. I might have taken this deter-
mination a month since, and I wish I had. But I thought I might
strike out something better by the braes and burn-sides. Alas ! I
walk along them with painful and feeble steps, and invoke their in-
fluence in vain. But my health is excellent, and it were ungrateful
to complain either of mental or bodily decay. We called at Elliston
to-day and made up for some ill-bred delay. In the evening I cor-
rected two sheets of the Magnum, as we call it.

April 15. I took up Anne, and wrote, with interruption of a
nap (in which my readers may do well to imitate me), till two o'clock.
I wrote with care, having digested Comines. Whether I succeed or
not, it would be dastardly to give in. A bold countenance often car-
ries off an indifferent cause, but no one will defend him who shows
the white feather. At two I walked till near four. Dined with the
girls, smoked two cigars, and to work again till supper-time. Slept
like a top. Amount of the day's work, eight pages a round task.

April 16. I meant to go out with Bogie to plant some shrubs in
front of the old quarry, but it rains cats and dogs as they say, a rare
day for grinding away at the old mill of imagination, yet somehow I
have no great will to the task. After all, however, the morning
proved a true April one, sunshine and shower, and I both worked to
some purpose, and moreover walked and directed about planting the

The post brought matter for a May or April morning a letter
from Sir James Mackintosh, telling me that Moore and he were en-
gaged as contributors to Longman's Encyclopaedia, and asking me to
do a volume at 1000, the subject to be the History of Scotland in
one volume. This would be very easy work. I have the whole stuff

1 Burns's Lines to a Mouse: "a daimen-icker in a thrave," that is. an ear of corn out of two
dozen sheaves.

1829.] JOURNAL 451

in my head, and could write currente calamo. The size is as I com-
pute it about one-third larger than The Talcs of my Grandfather.
There is much to be said on both sides. Let me balance pros and
cons after the fashion of honest Robinson Crusoe. Pro. It is the
sum I have been wishing for, sufficient to enable me to break the in-
visible but magic circle which petty debts of myself and others have
traced round me. With common prudence I need no longer go from
hand to mouth, or what is worse, anticipate my means. I may also
pay off some small shop debts, etc., belonging to the Trust, clear off
all Anne's embarrassment, and even make some foundation of a purse
for her. N.B. I think this whacking reason is like to prove the gal-
lon of Cognac brandy, which a lady recommended as the foundation
of a Liqueur. " Stop, dear madam, if you please," said my grand-
father, Dr. Rutherford, " you can [add] nothing to that; it isjlacon-
nade with 1000," and a capital hit, egad. Contra. It is terribly
like a hack author to make an abridgement of what I have written so
lately. Pro. But a difference may be taken. A history may be
written of the same country on a different plan, general where the
other is detailed, and philosophical where it is popular. I think I
can do this, and do it with unwashed hands too. For being hacked,
what is it but another word for being an author ? I will take care of
my name doubtless, but the five letters which form it must take care
of me in turn. I never knew name or fame burn brighter by over
chary keeping of it. Besides, there are two gallant hacks to pull
with me. Contra. I have a monstrous deal on hand. Let me see:
Life of Argyll, 1 and Life of Peterborough, for Lockhart. 2 Third
series Tales of my Grandfather review for Gillies new novel end
of Anne of Geierstein. Pro. But I have just finished two long re-
views for Lockhart. The third series is soon discussed. The re-
view may be finished in three or four days, and the novel is within a
week and less of conclusion. For the next, we must first see how
this goes off. In fine, within six weeks, I am sure I can do the work
and seciire the independence I sigh for. Must I not make hay while
the sun shines? Who can tell what leisure, health, and life may be
destined to me ?

Adjourned the debate till to-morrow morning.

April 17. I resumed the discussion of the bargain about the
history. The ayes to the right, the noes to the left. The ayes have
it so I will write to Sir James of this date. But I will take a walk
first, that I will. A little shaken with the conflict, for after all were
I as I have been . "My poverty but not my will consents." 3

I have been out in a most delicious real spring day. I returned
with my nerves strung and my mind determined. I will make this
plunge, and with little doubt of coming off no loser in character.

1 John, Duke of Argyll and Greenwich. 3 Romeo and Juliet, Act v. Sc. 1.

* These biographies, intended for The Family
Library, were never written.


What is given in detail may be suppressed, general views may be
enlarged upon, and a bird's-eye prospect given, not the less interest-
ing, that we have seen its prominent points nearer and in detail. I
have been of late in a great degree free from wafercd letters, sums
to make up, notes of hand wanted, and all the worry of an embar-
rassed man's life. This last struggle will free me entirely, and so
help me Heaven it shall be made ! I have written to Sir James, stat-
ing that I apprehend the terms to be 1000, namely, for one volume
containing about one-third more than one of the volumes of Tales of
my Grandfather, and agreeing to do so. Certes, few men can win a
thousand pounds so readily.

We dine with the Fergusons to-day at four. So off we went and
safely returned.

April 18. Corrected proofs. I find J. B. has not returned to
his business, though I wrote him how necessary it was. My pity be-
gins to give way to anger. Must he sit there and squander his
thoughts and senses upon cloudy metaphysics and abstruse theology
till he addles his brains entirely, and ruins his business ? I have
written to him again, letter third and, I am determined, last.

Wrote also to the fop Reynolds, with preface to the House of
Aspen, then to honest Joseph Train desiring he would give me some
notion how to serve him with Messrs. Carr, and to take care to make
his ambition moderate and feasible.

My neighbour, Mr. Kerr of Kippielaw, struck with a palsy while
he was looking at the hounds ; his pony remained standing by his
side. A sudden call if a final one.

That strange desire to leave a prescribed task and set about some-
thing else seized me irresistibly. I yielded to it, and sat down to
try at what speed and in what manner I could execute this job of Sir
James Mackintosh's, and I wrote three leaves before rising, well
enough, I think. The girls made a round with me. We drove to
Chiefswood, and from that to Janeswood, up the Rhymer's Glen, and
so home. This occupied from one to four. In the evening I heard
Anne read Mr. Peel's excellent Bill on the Police of the Metropolis,
which goes to disband the whole generation of Dogberry and Verges.
Wrote after tea.

April 19. I made this a busy day. I wrote on at the history
until two o'clock, then took a gallant walk, then began reading for
Gillies's article. James Ferguson dined with us. We smoked and I
became woundy sleepy. Now I have taken collar to this arrange-
ment, I find an open sea before me which I could not have antici-
pated, for though I should get through well enough with my expec-
tations during the year, yet it is a great thing to have a certainty to
be clear as a new pin of every penny of debt. There is no being
obliged or asking favours or getting loans from some grudging friend
who can never look at you after but with fear of losing his cash, or
you at him without the humiliating sense of having extorted an obli-

1829.] JOURNAL 453

gation. Besides my large debts, I have paid since I was in trouble
at least 2000 of personal encumbrances, so no wonder my nose is
still under water. I really believe the sense of this apparently un-
ending struggle, schemes for retrenchment in which I was unsecond-
ed, made me low-spirited, for the sun seems to shine brighter upon
me as a free man. Nevertheless, devil take the necessity which makes
me drudge like a very hack of Grub Street.

" May the foul fa' the gear and the bletherie o 't." '

I walked out with Tom's assistance, came home, went through
the weary work of cramming, and so forth ; wrought after tea, and
then to bed.

April 20. As yesterday till two sixteen pages of the History
written, and not less than one-fifth of the whole book. What if they
should be off ? I were finely holp'd for throwing my time away. A
toy ! They dare not.

Lord Buchan is dead, a person whose immense vanity, bordering
upon insanity, obscured, or rather eclipsed, very considerable talents.
His imagination was so fertile that he seemed really to believe the
extraordinary fictions which he delighted in telling. His economy,
most laudable in the early part of his life, when it enabled him, from
a small income, to pay his father's debts, became a miserable habit,
and led him to do mean things. He had a desire to be a great man,
and a Mcecenas bon marche. The two celebrated lawyers, his brothers,
were not more gifted by nature than I think he was, but the re-
straints of a profession kept the eccentricity of the family in order.
Henry Erskine was the best-natured man I ever knew, thoroughly a
gentleman, and with but one fault : he could not say no, and thus
sometimes misled those who trusted him. Tom Erskine was posi-
tively mad. I have heard him tell a cock-and-a-bull story of having
seen the ghost of his father's servant, John Buruet, with as much
sincerity as if he believed every word he was saying. Both Henry
and Thomas were saving men, yet both died very poor. The one at
one time possessed 200,000 ; the other had a considerable fortune.
The Earl alone has died wealthy. It is saving, not getting, that is
the mother of riches. They all had wit. The Earl's was crack-
brained and sometimes caustic ; Henry's was of the very kindest, best-
humoured, and gayest that ever cheered society ; that of Lord Ers-
kine was moody and maddish. But I never saw him in his best days.

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe journal of Sir Walter Scott, from the original manuscript at Abbotsford → online text (page 55 of 76)